Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some of My Summer Reading

Not everything I read is serious...especially during the summer months. This is a fun one.

What Causes Church Conflicts?

What causes church conflicts? This is a really good article addressing that question.

Years ago, I received training to be a conflict resolution consultant for the Northwestern Ohio Synod (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). The training came from someone with The Alban Institute and it was very good. This article, from the Billy Graham web site, succinctly summarizes major issues that give rise to congregational conflicts.

Conflict--or disagreement, it should be remembered, isn't inherently bad. I like the old saying: If two people agree on everything, at least one of them is irrelevant. If conflict is approached with love, it can be a time of growth for all involved, no matter what the resolution.

That was certainly the case with the first recorded church fight. It was over how Gentile believers in Christ were to be admitted into the fellowship of the Church, which up to that point, saw itself as a sect of Judaism. According to some scholars, there were at least four major groupings within the fledgling Church, each with their own views on the subject of Gentile assimilation and other subjects. Strong-minded people with strong opinions made their opinions known.

But that conflict didn't kill the Church. Instead, at a council in Jerusalem, informal representatives of the various groups met, prayed, and set out a new policy. They didn't depart from what God has revealed, not only in Christ, but in Old Testament times. God's character and will never change. But they were open to seeing old truths in new ways and so, found a solution.

Reliance on God's gracious love, shared even as we present the conflicting views to which we believe God and God's Word have taken us, is the key to resolving conflicts. I've seen that repeatedly in my 26 years as a pastor and student of Christ's Church.

And by the way, in reference to the teaser with which the article on church conflicts begins, I do know of a congregation that saw members leave because they didn't like the color of the carpeting selected for a new sanctuary. That is what I'd call majoring in the minors!

"Sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble."

See here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Historian Robert Dallek on how LBJ got Medicare passed and made it seem like a patriotic duty for the AMA to go along, Johnson was a master of the legislative process. It's sad--I would say tragice--that he couldn't use his legislative guile to end the War in Vietnam.

Never Forget!

A member of Saint Matthew sent a link to this album of photos from the Auschwitz death camp. It shows prisoners being brought in and sorted either to work in the camp or to be gassed. There no grisly photos. But they do act as further reminders of the inhumanity of which human beings are capable. May God help us to never forget!

When Worry Threatens

A quote which Norman Vincent Peale attributed to an anonymous sixteenth-century mystic:
"Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes away except God. God alone is sufficient."
UPDATE, MYSTERY SOLVED: After I posted this quote over on Facebook, my Lutheran colleague, Abraham Allende, left these informative comments and has permitted me to share them here:
The mystic was not anonymous. She was St. Teresa of Avila, also known as Teresa of Jesus, a native of Spain, a member of the Carmelite order and a leader of the Catholic Reformation in the 16th Century (better known as the counterreformation). She is commemorated on October 15. The text that you quoted is a poem she wrote and used in a Taize song sung in Spanish: "Nada te turbe, nada te espante. Todo se pasa. Dios no se muda. Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta. La paciencia todo lo alcanza. Solo Dios basta."

Sorry to go on and on but she is one of my favorite poets and people of faith. I am surprised that Norman Vincent Peale would not give her proper attribution and I won't speculate as to why.

Three Awesome Gifts

The most awesome gifts God gives are grace, mercy, and peace.

It's by God's grace through our faith (or trust) in Christ that we all can have peace with God.

And, to paraphrase the first century preacher Paul writing at another place in the New Testament, faith in God isn't something we construct.

We don't talk ourselves into faith any more than the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz talked himself into courage. Faith in Christ is a free gift God gives to all who are willing to let God tear down our walls of resistance.

Through grace, God can tear down everything within us that keeps us from being who we were made to be and God can begin to build up everything we were made to be.

Interested in becoming God's construction site?

It's sometimes painful, but always rewarding. Sometimes challenging, but always joyful.

And through the process of growing God-ward, you will experience the grace, mercy, and peace of the awesome God of all creation!

Today's Our Daily Bread devotion takes the time to present short definitions of these three awesome gifts of God: grace, mercy, and peace.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cockeyed Priorities?

From my colleague, Pastor Glen VanderKloot's daily emailed inspiration for today:
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Thought for the Day:
 "Most middle class Americans tend to worship their work,
to work at their play,
and to play at their worship."

    Gordon Dahl
 Hebrews 13:16  (The Message)
Make sure you don't take things for granted and go slack in
working for the common good; share what you have with others.
God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—
a different kind of "sacrifice"—that take place in kitchen and
workplace and on the streets.

Lord, help me to keep worship, work and play in the right order.